RETURN TO Carry On Tuesday

Saturday 3 July 2010

Carry On Tuesday Plus # 60

In 1914 the poet Rupert Brook wrote his best known sonnet, The Soldier. Originally entitled The Recruit, it puts into words the thoughts of a soldier leaving home to play his part in a war miles from his home and family. It is as relevant today as it was all those decades ago. In a cruel twist of fate he died one year later whilst serving with the Navy, and his body was buried in a ‘corner of a foreign field’, an olive grove on a Greek island.

If I should die, think only this of me: 
That there's some corner of a foreign field 
That is for ever England. There shall be 
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; 
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, 
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, 
A body of England's, breathing English air, 
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. 

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less 
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; 
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; 
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, 
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Brooke was an English poet whose neo-Romantic poems and premature death in World War One contributed to his fame and idealised image.
Rupert Brooke was born on 3 August 1887. His father was a housemaster at Rugby School. After leaving Cambridge University, where he became friends with many of those in the 'Bloomsbury Group', Brooke studied in Germany and travelled in Italy. In 1909 he moved to the village of Grantchester, near Cambridge, which he celebrated in his poem, 'The Old Vicarage, Grantchester' (1912). His first collection of poems was published in 1911. In 1913, Brooke became a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, his old college.
In the same year, he left England to travel in North America, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. He returned home shortly before the outbreak of World War One. He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Division and took part in the disastrous Antwerp expedition in October 1914. In February 1915, he set sail for the Dardanelles. On board ship he developed septicaemia from a mosquito bite. He died on 23 April 1915 on a hospital ship off the Greek island of Skyros and was buried in an olive grove on the island.
Rupert Brooke caught the optimism of the opening months of the war with his wartime poems, published after his death, which expressed an idealism about war that contrasts strongly with poetry published later in the conflict.